Ask Joan: Had Enough, but…

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A reader writes:

I am 49 and my husband is 65, married 25 years. We had a fair sex life until about 2007, when he became depressed and emotionally abusive. He physically assaulted my then teenage (now adult) son once that I witnessed, and I have since learned there were more incidents. When he became emotionally ugly, I withdrew. I didn’t love him any less, but I was angry.

Abuse Escalates

In 2010, medications made my vagina and mouth very dry. One night he begged for a blow job, and I said my mouth was too dry. He responded by suddenly spitting a mouthful of his saliva into my mouth. I was disgusted and spit back at him, then left the room.

“I do not find him sexually attractive anymore.”

I do not find him sexually attractive anymore. While we were sexually active, he took the little blue pill, but it ceased working and he stopped getting hard. I was tired of always being let down without my needs fulfilled. Now I reject all intimacy with him.

Counselling and Meds

Several years ago, I asked him for a divorce. He said that he would not leave and would not allow me to move out, because that would make him look like an a**hole.  No matter what I did or suggested, he would not agree. He went to counseling with me once, then refused. I accept that no matter what I do, he will not change.

After a change in medications, my sex drive has returned and is active. I take care of business on my own, as I know he can’t get an erection and will disappoint me over and over. He will not willingly give me a hall pass for my needs to be met.

“I’ve had enough of being his nurse…”

He has medical issues now and I take care of him. I’ve had enough of being his nurse, dealing with things that would repulse most. I am working full time and could make a new start financially. However, after 25 years of dealing with this, I believe I may as well continue to the end of his life or mine.

– Had Enough, But Won’t Leave

Joan replies: 

You’ve been in an emotionally abusive relationship for 14 of your 25 years together. He physically assaulted your son. He spit in your mouth when you said no to a blow job. You acknowledge that nothing you do or say prompts him to change. Why are you still with this man?

Escaping the Abuse 

I can only guess that your self-esteem has been so diminished by this abusive relationship that you don’t believe you can do better or deserve better, and you don’t have the emotional strength to try. Please get counseling with a licensed therapist with expertise dealing with abusive marriages.

“Why would you want to protect his reputation?” 

You say he won’t “allow” you to move out — but that’s what divorce makes possible: a severing of your legal marital obligations so that you can go wherever you like, do whatever you wish. He says he won’t agree to a separation because he would be viewed as an “a**hole.” Truth: he is an “a**hole.” Why would you want to protect his reputation? You do not need his permission or agreement to get out of this marriage.

You say you might as well stay because you’ve put up with this so long. But you’re only 49, with decades of living ahead of you. Don’t deny yourself any chance for happiness. You say you can make it financially if you leave. Start making a plan now and see a divorce attorney as well as a therapist.

Finding Sexual Satisfaction 

I’m focusing on the non-sexual parts of your story because they’re crucial — both for you and for readers who in a similar situation. But sure, let’s talk about the sexual concerns. If you are satisfying yourself, you know that an erect penis is not a requirement for your orgasm. Whether you’re using a dildo, a vibrator, your own fingers, or some combination, you could do the same with a partner who was invested in your pleasure. (See “A Senior’s Guide to Sex Without Intercourse” and my webinar, “Great Sex Without Penetration.”)

“The point isn’t whether he can get hard…”

The point isn’t whether he can get hard — it’s whether the two of you care about giving each other sexual pleasure, and nothing you say points to that. Your husband has no right to deny you a “hall pass” to find a compatible sexual partner when you haven’t had even “fair” sex together since 2007.

You deserve better than this. If you won’t leave him for your own sake, think of the message you’re giving your son: “I know he physically assaulted you once that I saw, more times that I didn’t. Good to know, but I’m staying with this man who hurt and traumatized you.”

Imagine telling your son instead, “I’m so sorry that I didn’t leave him when I learned he was hurting you. I was messed up, and I regret that more than I can say. I’m finding the strength now to leave him.”

How to get help

A resource if you’re in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship, or think you might be at the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Get help, identify abuse, plan for safety, find local resources.

Send Joan your questions by emailing All information is confidential. Joan can only answer questions that are chosen for publication from readers age 60+.

Joan Price has been Senior Planet’s “Sex at Our Age” columnist since 2014. She is the author of four self-help books about senior sex, including her award winners: “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex” and “Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved.” Visit Joan’s website and blog for senior sex news, views, tips, and sex toy reviews from a senior perspective. Subscribe to Joan’s free, monthly newsletter